The 2019-20 Georgia Swarm season has yet to have a satisfying conclusion – or any conclusion, for that matter. With the National Lacrosse League cancelling the remainder of the regular season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Swarm are stuck in limbo with their last game being a home loss to the Philadelphia Wings and a 7-5 record.
There’s hope for a postseason and a finality to an incredible NLL season, but that is very dependent on this pandemic changing course. The NLL is monitoring this situation daily and is examining possible scenarios for a return to play, but there is no timeline on when that decision will be made.
So, while we unfortunately can’t look ahead at what might be because of fluid extenuating circumstances, we can take a look back at what was the abbreviated 2019-20 Georgia Swarm.
First, the numbers:
- The Swarm finished the season in second in the East Division with a 7-5 record, tied with the Philadelphia Wings with their 8-6 record.
- The Swarm, however, just barely have a better winning percentage (.583 compared to .571) and the season series against the Wings, giving them the fifth seed following the original postseason format announced before the 2019-20 season began.
- Georgia’s offense was the best in the NLL, with a 12.42 GF/GAME. Three of the top 10 scorers in the NLL are Swarm players – Shayne Jackson (3rd overall – 31G, 42A), Randy Staats (5th overall – 22G, 48A), and Lyle Thompson (7th overall – 27G, 33A). No other team had more than one player in the top 10.
- The Swarm’s defense was seventh in the NLL with a 10.50 GA/GAME. The defense was the best in the NLL at suppressing shots, allowing the fewest shots against per game at 47.9.
- Goaltender Mike Poulin was having one of the best campaigns of his career, finishing the regular season with a 10.15 GAA (a new career best, minimum of 500 min. played) and .786 SV% across 679:59 min.
- The Swarm were 2-4 at home and 5-1 on the road.
That last stat is one of the more telling stats of the season, especially because the first two games colored the start of the Swarm’s campaign so vividly.
Training camp closed with the Swarm returning a roster reminiscent of the 2017 world championship-winning Swarm. Joel White and Jordan Hall returned on one-year deals, and the only new faces at the start on the Swarm’s Active Roster would be first-rounders Kason Tarbell and Ryan MacSpadyen The Swarm lost Holden Cattoni in the expansion, but Bryan Cole would slot out the front door, complementing Jackson and Hall (eventually, Zach Miller would take Cole’s place in the Swarm’s fifth game after Cole missed a stretch of games due to an injury suffered against the Bandits).
Nov. 30 saw the Swarm visit Blue Cross Arena for a familiar venue and opponent name but entirely different team and color scheme in the Rochester Knighthawks. The Swarm were honored to be the first opponent for the expansion-era Knighthawks, and they repaid said honor by allowing the Knighthawks to score just four goals.
The Swarm’s 14-4 road win brought their confidence sky-high heading into their Home Opener against the Philadelphia Wings, and a 12-6 handling of their division rival boosted that confidence to the stratosphere.
But gravity regained control of the Swarm’s ascent, and reality in the form of a 13-11 comeback win by the Colorado Mammoth and an assertive 16-10 win by the Buffalo Bandits sent the Swarm back to earth, both home losses. After struggling for two games to play Swarm lacrosse for 60 minutes, the team took to the road to take on the expansion New York Riptide.
The Riptide were 0-5 at that point, and the Swarm were more focused on themselves than their opponent. Most of the game was the visiting team’s, but the Swarm’s late 9-5 lead evaporated, as the Riptide scored seven goals in the fourth quarter to force overtime, ultimately winning on Dan MacRae’s transition goal.
Now below .500 and reeling from three consecutive losses, the Swarm continued their road trip to take on the 4-0 New England Black Wolves. They were down 10-7 early in the fourth, but a ferocious comeback tied things up at 10 apiece, forcing overtime again. This time, the extra minutes went the Swarm’s way as Miles Thompson netted the game-winner.
— georgiaswarmlax (@GeorgiaSwarmLAX) January 26, 2020
January concluded with a rematch in Philadelphia, and it took everything the men had to escape Wells Fargo Center with the 12-11 win. After a bye week, the Swarm returned home for a rematch against the Riptide, and they showed they had learned from their loss nearly a month earlier with a 14-9 home win.
Riding the momentum of a three-game win streak, the Swarm welcomed the Calgary Roughnecks to Sting City for their first visit there since 2017. A showcase in offense, the Swarm and Roughnecks each netted 17 goals, trading blows for most of the final half. Unfortunately for the Swarm, overtime was not their friend as Dane Dobbie’s sock trick was the final tally of the night.
Chastened at home again, the Swarm hit the road, besting the Vancouver Warriors 14-7 and reversing history with their own seven-goal fourth quarter at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum for the comeback victory against the Riptide.
That season series game against the Riptide was the first game in a doubleheader weekend for the Swarm. They returned home for the third and final game of the season against the Wings, and despite a 6-0 lead in the first 20 min. of the game, the Swarm couldn’t stop the Wings from preventing the Swarm sweep with a 12-11 road win of their own.
And that’s where things ended. The NLL suspended the regular season on Thursday, March 12. The Swarm waited as their games against the Saskatchewan Rush and New England Black Wolves came and went, everyone staying home to protect fans and help flatten the curve.
Almost a month later, the NLL cancelled the remainder of the 2019-20 season, thus giving a partial sense of finality to the Swarm’s 2019-20 season.
7-5. The fifth seed. The top offense. Three different forwards in the top 10 NLL scorers. The best defense at shot suppression.
There’s a lot to love about this Swarm team and believe they can earn the franchise’s second world championship if the NLL postseason happens.
But those five losses stand out as stark reminders that just because a team looks strong on paper, games have to be played to determine the NLL Champ. Ball don’t lie, and Swarm head coach Ed Comeau’s constant refrain of “60-min. of Swarm lacrosse” reverberated before and after each and every game this season as a reminder of what we and the team expect from them whenever the players step onto the floor.
If a postseason does happen and it follows the new format established by the NLL before the season’s start, then this delay will do some good for the Swarm, as it will for all NLL teams. Everyone can take the time to get fully healthy. The Swarm would play the Toronto Rock in their barn, a quarterfinal between the fourth and fifth seed.
This is all speculation at this point regarding the NLL postseason format. The league is looking at a number of scenarios to crown a champion, as everyone wants a conclusion. Nothing is definitive as of right now. But that thought of what may be is keeping the Swarm focused.
We all want closure. We may not get it this season. But the Swarm continue to wait patiently all the same, hopeful that this time off gets them in the best condition possible for whatever may come.